Over the last year, shooting, mainly as I have been with Fujifilm X Series I have had a fundamental shift in my approach to lens choice. Prior to this period like most people, I favored zoom lenses.
I enjoyed the versatility and convenience that a zoom lens has to offer. I also own a variety of prime lenses, in Nikon, Panasonic, and Fujifilm mounts. Like many photographers however, I generally reserved my prime lenses for specific circumstances, for instance, when I would need to shoot indoor shots in low light. Here the wider apertures offered by single focal length lenses become extremely useful, especially if no flash was to be used.
I think the Fuji X100/X100s was the catalyst for the transformation to shooting primes day–to-day. Because of their size, these cameras have been very compelling companions for travel and hiking with one caveat: the attached 35 mm lens . Before the X 100 series, I would typically hike with a body and a zoom lens with a field of view of let’s say 24-80 mm. I would zoom to frame a subject, sometimes forgetting to consider the effect of the new focal length on the depth of field and perspective needed for the image
The X 100s forced me to rethink this. Without the luxury of variable focal lengths, I was forced to find other ways to be creative, varying my distance from the subject to frame the subject. This forced me to confront the other characteristics of the focal length It reinforced the concept that not every shooting opportunity is well matched to the 35 mm field of view.
When I bought my X Pro 1, I bought with it the 35mm and 60mm lenses as no Fuji zoom was then available. I loved extraordinary sharpness, and the speed available these prime lenses. I started to become a lens snob. I have even begun to shoot primes on my Nikon gear. With the introduction of the XF 56mm f1.2( 85 mm equivalent ) I have been doing a lot of photography, with 2 camera bodies, the X100s with its 35mm equivalent lens, and one of the other interchangeable lens bodies with the longer prime lens, perhaps, the XF 14mm in the bag. I really like the discipline it has brought to my work.
Working with primes I think, makes one more thoughtful than when you have a zoom lens attached to your camera. I had one regret about X 100 series. The fixed 35 mm field of view is wonderful for shooting events, and street work, except when one wants to indulge in more intimate portraiture. Plus I have really begun to enjoy the 56mm for landscape work So, when Fuji introduced a lens adapter for the X 100 series,the WCL-X100 I was initially excited until I discovered that this would be a wide-angle adapter. A field of view of 28 mm, is not that much different from that of 35 mm, at least in my hands.
So, I passed, which meant I still carried two cameras to do street and event photography. But then Fuji did something wonderful. They introduced another lens converter the TCL-X100, a tele-converter with a field of view of roughly 50 mm. This had the potential to vastly improve the X 100’s versatility. After some initial reviews suggested that the converter’s optics were quite remarkable, I took the plunge.
As with all of the X series accessories, it arrived in high-quality packing materials, with a cloth bag that can double as a lens cleaner. It appears to be extremely well made, with a metal finish matching my camera’s silver lens. To mount the converter, you unscrew the trim piece on the front of the lens, or in my case, you remove the filter adapter, and lens shade I keep attached. The adapter then easily screws on. Once mounted, you need to visit the camera menus so to inform the camera at the tele converter is mounted (there is no electronic connection to the camera). This alters image processing, allowing the camera to adjust for the TCL’s distortion characteristics. You will need the latest firmware to enable this. I have assigned this selection to the function button by the power switch.
One significant omission is the lack of a lens shade, especially as the front element is rather convex. I suspect Fuji did not wish to further block the viewfinder, which is already somewhat compromised, by the bulk of the converter. I have a Velcro lens shade that I have been using when shooting into the sun. The converter is threaded however, and will accept filters . The beauty of this tele-converter, is that it does not alter the speed or exposure characteristics of the native lens.
One of my first tests, was to visit my local pub, and shoot portraits in the dim light.
It was wonderful to have a 50 mm equivalent lens mounted on that very quiet and discrete camera. The longer focal length means that camera shake will be more noticeable. I have my auto-ISO settings specifying a minimum shutter speed of 1/40th of a second. This is probably a bit slow (note to Fuji, why, not allow us to set a minimum shutter speed for each of the lens converters, plus the native lens?).
I also have used the camera/tele-converter for landscape work . I found it could fairly quickly move from the native lens alone, to the converter or, or vice versa. You do have to remember to change the internal setting each time. As far as image quality goes, this lens appears to leave unchanged, the wonderful qualities of the native 23 mm lens. I find it to be very sharp, with lovely bokeh. I was curious to see how it would stack up, to the XF 35mm f1.4, prime (which gives a 53mm FOV given the sensor size) mounted to my XE1. Here you can see the relative size of the two set ups.
The extra stop of aperture of the XE1-35mm combo was offset by the quiet, and very gentle shutter of the X100s. In fact I had slight problems with camera shake while taking the test images with the XE-1, which was not a problem with the X100s (less shutter shake means one can carry for instance, a lighter tripod).
I used my usual subject to take comparison pictures, at f2, and at f8.
You can review the comparison below.
For a better look at these images visit my Smugmug gallery here.
I think the comparison reinforces the amazing sharpness of the XF35mm. Yet the X100s/ teleconverter definitely holds its own.
For a more detailed evaluation of the lens, you can visit the review on the Imaging Resource webpage.
Is there a downside to the TCL-X100? Certainly nothing that is deal-breaking. I have observed, without objective testing, that the focusing performance of the X 100s, seems to be somewhat adversely affected by the adapter. There were times, particularly in low light, when I could achieve focus with native lens, but struggled with the converter in place. It is important to try to focus on a fairly high contrast portion of the scene you are attempting to capture. Perhaps, a firmware upgrade in the future can improve this. Parenthetically, because of the lens converter, I am carrying the X 100s more often without any of its “brethren”.
Because I carry the X 100s solo when I am, for instance, a guest at a wedding, I needed a more presentable camera case than the well-worn Mountainsmith fanny-pack I have been using. I discovered the Think Tank Sub Urban Disguise 5 on Amazon for under $50.
This is a handsome , somewhat rigid shoulder bag with plenty of room for the X 100 series, even with the tele converter mounted. It has the usual clever pockets for things photographic, as well as an included rain cover.
One final thing: Fujifilm as most of you know has recently introduced the X100t. This is in incremental upgrade to the “S” model with features such as Wi-Fi, and some new focusing features for the viewfinder. The imager and lens are the same. Owners of the original X100 may want to consider this as a replacement. As I own the newer “S” model, I think I’ll hold for now.
I’m saving my money for the X Pro 2 when it arrives.